Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

A VENETIAN MEDLEY.

I.

er there be æsthetic "moments” they | heaven, the calm and greyness of evening shall cease; whether there be thirst for on the lagoons, the pathos of a marble knowledge even this shall sometimes city crumbling to its grave in mud and seem vanity; but the sense of humor brine. never faileth. The ancient legend had it These first impressions of Venice are that at the bottom of Pandora's box, and true. Indeed they are inevitable. They the sole anodyne for the troop of ills abide, and form a glowing background for which had escaped from under its half. all subsequent pictures, toned more ausopened lid, lay hope; but if hope were terely, and painted in more lasting hues man's only consolation for the miseries of of truth upon the brain. Those have his earthly lot, he would be nowadays in never felt Venice at all who have not a desperately evil case. Fortunately, known this primal rapture -- or wbo perhowever, the mythologist was mistaken. haps expected more of color, more of Zeus never mocked the race of mortals melodrama, from a scene which nature and quite so cruelly as this; nor had the fatal the art of man have made the richest in act of Epimetheus quite so illusory a these qualities. Yet the mood engendered compensation. The anodyne which really by this first experience is not destined to lay at the bottom of the casket was not be permanent. It contains an element of hope, but humor. H. D. TRAILL. unrest and unreality which vanishes upon

familiarity. From the blare of that triumphal bourdon of brass instruments emerge the delicate voices of violin and

clarinette. To the contrasted passions of From Fraser's Magazine.

our earliest love succeed a multitude of sweet and fanciful emotions. It is my

present purpose to recapture some of the FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND FAMILIARITY.

impressions made by Venice in more

tranquil moods. Memory might be comIt is easy to feel and to say something pared to a kaleidoscope. Far away from obvious about Venice. The influence of Venice I raise the wonder-working tube, this sea-city is unique, immediate, and allow the glittering fragments to settle as unmistakable. But to express the sober they please, and with words attempt to truth of those impressions which remain render something of the patterns I bewhen the first astonishment of the Vene- bold. tian revelation has subsided, when the spirit of the place has been harmonized through familiarity with our habitual mood, is difficult.

Venice inspires at first an almost Cory- I HAVE escaped from the hotels with bantic rapture. From our earliest visits, their bustle of tourists and crowded taif these have been measured by days bles d'hôte. My garden stretches down rather than weeks, we carry away with us to the Grand Canal, closed at the end with the memory of sunsets emblazoned in a pavilion, where I lounge and smoke and gold and crimson upon cloud and water; watch the cornice of the Prefettura fretted of violet domes and bell-towers etched with gold in sunset light. My sitting. against the orange of a western sky; of room and bedroom face the southern moonlight silvering breeze - rippled sun. There is a canal below, crowded breadths of liquid blue ; of distant islands with gondolas, and across its bridge the shimmering in sunlitten haze; of music good folk of San Vio come and go the and black gliding boats; of labyrinthine whole day long — men in blue shirts with darkness made for mysteries of love and enormous hats, and jackets slung on their crime ; of statue-fretted palace fronts, of left shoulder; women in kerchiefs of or. brazen clangor and a moving crowd; of ange and crimson. Barelegged boys sit pictures by earth's proudest painters, upon the parapet, dangling their feet above cased in gold on walls of council cham- the rising tide. A hawker passes, balancbers where Venice sat enthroned a queen, ing a basket full of live and crawling where nobles swept the floors with robes crabs. Barges filled with Brenta water of 'Tyrian brocade. These reminiscences or Mirano wine take up their station at will be attended by an ever-present sense the neighboring steps, and then ensues a of loneliness and silence in the world mighty splashing and hurrying to and fro around; the sadness of a limitless hori- of men with tubs upon their heads. The zon, the solemnity of an unbroken arch of | brawny fellows in the wine-barge are red

II.

A LODGING IN SAN VIO.

and pears

from brows to breast with drippings of the swan-like movement of the gondola. In vat. And now there is a bustle in the one of these boats - called by him the quarter. A barca has arrived from St. “Fisoloor “Sea-Mew

my friend had Erasmo, the island of the market-gardens. started with Antonio, intending to row It is piled with gourds and pumpkins, the whole way to Chioggia, or, if the cabbages and tomatoes, pomegranates breeze favored, to hoist a sail and help

a pyramid of gold and green himself along. After breakfast, when and scarlet. Brown men lift the fruit the crew for my gondola had been assemaloft, and women bending from the path. bled, Francesco and I followed with the way bargain for it. A clatter of chaffer- signora.

It was

one of those perfect ing tongues, a ring of coppers, a Babel of mornings which occur as a respite from hoarse sea-voices, proclaim the sharpness broken weather, when the air is windless of the struggle. When the quarter has and the light falls soft through haze on been served, the boat sheers off dimin. the horizon. As we broke into the lagoon ished in its burden. Boys and girls are behind the Redentore, the islands in front left seasoning their polenta with a slice of us, S. Spirito, Poveglia, Malamocco, of zucca, while the mothers of a score of seemed as though they were just lifted families go pattering up yonder court: from the sea-line. The Euganeans, far yard with the material for their husbands' away to westward, were bathed in mist, supper in their handkerchiefs. Across and almost blent with the blue sky. the canal, or more correctly the Rio, opens Our four rowers put their backs into their a wide, grass-grown court. It is lined on work, and soon we reached the port of the right hand by a row of poor dwellings, Malamocco, where a breeze from the swarming with gondoliers' children. A Adriatic caught us sideways for a while. garden wall runs along the other side, This is the largest of the breaches in the over which I can see pomegranate-trees Lidi, or raised sand-reefs, which protect in fruit and pergolas of vines. 'Far be. Venice from the sea: it affords an enyond are more low houses, and then the trance to vessels of draught like the sky, swept with sea-breezes, and the masts steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental of an ocean-going ship against the dome Company. We crossed the dancing waveand turrets of Palladio's Redentore. This lets of the port, but when we passed unis my home. By day it is as lively as a der the lee of Pelestrina the breeze failed, scene in “

Masaniello.” By night, after and the lagoon was once again a sheet of nine o'clock, the whole stir of the quarter undulating glass. At S. Pietro on this has subsided. Far away I hear the bell island a lialt was made to give the oarsof some church tell the hours. But no men wine, and here we saw the women at noise disturbs my rest, unless perhaps a their cottage doorways making lace. The belated gondolier moors his boat beneath old lace industry of Venice has recently the window. My one maid, Catina, sings been revived. From Burano and Pelesat her work the whole day through. My trina cargoes of hand-made imitations of gondolier, Francesco, acts as valet. He the ancient fabrics are sent at intervals wakes me in the morning, opens the shut- to Jesurun's magazine at S. Marco. He ters, brings sea-water for my bath, and is the chief impresario of the trade, em. takes his orders for the day, “Will itploying hundreds of hands, and speculatdo for Chioggia, Francesco ?' Sissig. ing for a handsome profit in the foreign nore! The signorino has set off in his market on the wretched price he gives sandolo already with Antonio. The sig. his workwomen. nora is to go with us in the gondola." Now we are well lost in the lagoons “ Then get three more men, Francesco, Venice no longer visible behind; the and see that all of them can sing." Alps and Euganeans shrouded in a noon.

day haze; the lowlands at the mouth of Brenta marked by clumps of trees ephem. erally faint in silver silhouette against

the filmy, shimmering sky. Form and The sandolo is a boat shaped like the color have disappeared in light-irradiated gondola, but smaller and lighter, without vapor of an opal hue. And yet instincbenches, and without the high steel prow tively we know that we are not at sea; or ferro which distinguishes the gondola. the different quality of the water, the piles The gunwale is only just raised above the emerging here and there above the surwater, over which the little craft skims face, the suggestion of coast-lines scarcely with a rapid bounding motion, affording felt in this infinity of lustre, all remind an agreeable variation from the stately I us that our voyage is confined to tbe

III.

TO CHIOGGIA WITH QAR AND SAIL.

charmed limits of an inland lake. Attorious Doria here with boats on which length the jutting headland of Pelestrina the nobles of the Golden Book had spent was reached. Wé broke across the Porto their fortunes. Pietro Doria boasted that di Chioggia, and saw Chioggia itself ahead with his own hands he would bridle the

a huddled mass of houses low upon the bronze horses of St. Mark. But now he water. One by one, as we rowed steadily, found himself between the navy of Carlo the fishing-boats passed by, emerging Zeno in the Adriatic and the flotilla led from their harbor for a twelve hours' by Vittore Pisani across the lagoon. It cruise upon the open sea. In a long line was in vain that the Republic of St. they came, with variegated sails of orange, George strained every nerve to send bim red, and saffron, curiously chequered at succor from the Ligurian sea; in vain the corners, and cantled with devices in that the lords of Padua kept opening comcontrasted tints. A little land-breeze car-munications with him from the mainland. ried them forward. The lagoon reflected From the ist of January, 1380, till the their deep colors till they reached the 21st of June the Venetians pressed the port. Then, slightly swerving eastward blockade ever closer, grappling their foeon their course, but still in single file, men in a grip that if relaxed one moment they took the sea and scattered, like beau. would have hurled him at their throats. tiful, bright-plumaged birds, who from a The long and breathless struggle ended streamlet float into a lake, and find their in the capitulation at Chioggia of what way at large according as each wills. remained of Doria's forty-eiglit galleys The signorino and Antonio, though and fourteen thousand men.

These great want of wind obliged them to row the deeds are far away and hazy. The brief whole way from Venice, had reached sentences of mediæval annalists bring Chioggia an hour before, and stood wait- then less near to us than the chroniques ing to receive us on the quay. It is a scandaleuses of good-for-nothing scoun. quaint town, this Chioggia, which has drels, whose vulgar adventures might be always lived a separate life from that of revived at the present hour with scarce a Venice. Language and race and customs change of setting. Such is the force of have beld the two populations apart, from intimité in literature. And yet Baffo and those distant years when Genoa and the Casanova are as much of the past as Do. Republic of St. Mark fought their duel ria and Pisan It is only perhaps that to the death out in the Chioggian harbors, the survival of decadence in all we see down to these days, when your Venetian around us sorms a fitting framework for gondolier will tell you that the Chioggoto our recollections of their vividly described loves his pipe more than his donna or his corruption. wife. The main canal is lined with sub- Not far from the landing.place a balus. stantial palaces, attesting to old wealth traded bridge of ample breadth and large and comfort. But from Chioggia, even bravura manner spans the main canal, more than from Venice, the tide of mod. Like everything at Chioggia, it is dirty and ern luxury and traffic has retreated. The has fallen from its first estate. Yet place is left to fishing folk and builders neither time nor injury can obliterate of the fishing craft, whose wharves still style or wholly degrade marble. Hard by form the liveliest quarter. Wandering the bridge there are two rival inns. At about its wide deserted courts and calli, one of these we ordered a sea dinner we feel the spirit of the decadent Vene- crabs, cuttlefishes, soles, and turbots tian nobility. Passages from Goldoni's which we ate at a table in the open air. and Casanova's memoirs occur to our Nothing divided us from the street except memory. It seems easy to realize what a row of Japanese privet-bushes in hooped they wrote about the dishevelled gaiety tubs. Our banquet soon assumed a some. and lawless license of Chioggia in the what unpleasant similitude to that of days of powder, sword-knot, and soprani. Dives, for the Chioggoti, in all stages of Baffo walks beside us in hypocritical coin. decrepitude and squalor, crowded round posure of bag.wig and senatorial dignity, to beg for scraps – indescribable old whispering unmentionable sonnets in his women, enveloped in their own petticoats dialect of xe and ga. Somehow or an thrown over their heads; girls hooded other that last dotage of St. Mark's de- with sombre black mantles; old men crepitude is more recoverable by our fancy wrinkled beyond recognition by their than the heroism of Pisani in the four- nearest relatives; jabbering, half-naked teenth century. From his prison in block- boys ; slow, slouching fishermen with aded Venice the great admiral was sent clay pipes in their mouths and philosophforth on a forlorn hope, and blocked vic-| ical acceptance on their sober foreheads.

That afternoon the gondola and san- | I stay here I shall become a colorist !” dolo were lashed together side by side. j A somewhat similar tale is reported of a Two sails were raised, and in this lazy fashionable English decorator. While fashion we stole homewards, faster or on a visit to friends in Venice he avoided slower according as the breeze freshened every building which contains a Tintoor slackened, landing now and then on retto, averring that the sight of Tintoislands, sauntering along the sea-walls retto's pictures would injure his carefully which bulwark Venice from the Adriatic, trained taste. It is probable that neither and singing — those at least of us who anecdote is strictly true. Yet there is a cerhad the power to sing. Four of our Vetain epigrammatic point in both; and I netians had trained voices and memories have often speculated whether even Ven. of inexhaustible music. Over the level lice could have so warped the genius of water, with the ripple plashing at our keel, Poussin as to shed one ray of splendor on their songs went abroad, and mingled his canvases, or whether even Tintoretto with the sailing day. The barcaroles and could have so sublimed the prophet of serenades peculiar to Venice were, of Queen Anne as to make him add dramatic course, in harmony with the occasion. passion to a London drawing-room. AnyBut some transcripts from classical operas how, it is exceedingly difficult to escape were even more attractive, through the from color in the air of Venice, or from dignity with which these men invested Tintoretto in her buildings. Long, dethem. By the peculiarity of their treat- lightful mornings may be spent in the en. ment the recitativo of the stage assumed joyment of the one and the pursuit of the a solemn movement, marked in rhythm, other by folk who have no classical or which removed it from the commonplace pseudo-mediæval theories

to oppress into antiquity, and made me understand them. how cultivated music may pass back by Tintoretto's house, though changed, natural, unconscious transition into the can still be visited. It formed part of the realm of popular melody.

Fondamenta dei Mori, so called from bavThe sun sank, not splendidly, but qui- ing been the quarter assigned to Moorish etly in banks of clouds above the Alps. traders in Venice. A spirited carving of Stars came out, uncertainly at first, and a turbaned Moor leading a camel charged then in strength, reflected on the sea. with merchandise remains above the waThe men of the Dogana watch-boat chal- ter-line of a neighboring building, and all lenged us and let us pass. Madonna's | about the crumbling walls spout flowering lanıp was twinkling from her shrine upon weeds -- samphire and snap-dragon and the harbor-pile. The city grew before the spiked campanula, which shoots a

Stealing into Venice in that calm, spire of sea-blue stars from chinks of Is. stealing silently and shadowlike, with trian stone. scarce a ruffle of the water, the masses of The house stands opposite the Church the town emerging out of darkness into of Santa Maria dell'Orto, where Tintotwilight, till San Giorgio's gun boomed retto was buried, and where four of his with a flash athwart our stern, and the chief masterpieces are to be seen. This gas-lamps of the Piazzetta swam into church, swept and garnished, is a triumph sight; all this was like a long enchanted|of modern Italian restoration. They have chapter of romance. And now the music contrived to make it as commonplace as of our men had sunk to one faint whis- human ingenuity could manage. tling from my friend of tunes in harmony malice of ignorant industry can obscure with whispers at the prow.

the treasures it contains — the pictures Then came the steps of the Palazzo of Cima, Gian Bellini, Palma, and the Venier, and the deep-scented darkness of four Tintorettos, which form its crowning the garden. As we passed through to glory. Here the master may be studied supper, I plucked a spray of yellow Bank-in four of his chief moods: as the painter sia rose, and put it in my button-hole. of tragic passion and movement, in the The dew was on its burnished leaves, and huge " Last Judgment;" as the painter of evening bad drawn forth its perfume. impossibilities, in “The Vision of Moses

upon Sinai;

as the painter of purity and tranquil pathos, in "The Miracle of St. Agnes ;” as the painter of Biblical history

brought home to daily life, in “ The Press A story is told of Poussin, the French entation of the Virgin.” Without leaving painter, that when he was asked why he the Madonna dell' Orto, a student can would not stay in Venice, he replied, “If explore his genius in all its depth and

us,

Yet no

[ocr errors]

IV.

MORNING RAMBLES.

breadth; comprehend the enthusiasm he merely the just man, innocent, silent, beexcites in those who seek, as the essen- fore his accusers. The stationary, whitetials of art, imaginative boldness and draped figure raised high above the agisincerity; understand what is meant by tated crowd, with tranquil forehead slightadversaries who maintain that, after all, ly bent, facing his perplexed and fussy Tintoretto was but an inspired Gustave judge, is more than man. We cannot say Doré. Between that quict canvas of “ The perhaps precisely why he is divine. But Presentation,” so modest in its cool greys Tintoretto has made us feel that he is. and subdued gold, and the tumult of fly. In other words, his treatment of the high ing, ruining, ascending figures in the theme chosen by him has been adequate. "Judgment,” what an interval there is! We must seek the Scuola di San Rocco How strangely the white lamb-like maiden, for examples of Tintoretto's liveliest inkneeling beside her lamb in the picture agination. Without ceasing to be Italian of St. Agnes, contrasts with the dusky in his attention to harmony and grace, he gorgeousness of the Hebrew women de- far exceeded the masters of his nation in spoiling themselves of jewels for the the power of suggesting what is weird, golden calf! Comparing these several mysterious, upon the border-land of the manifestations of creative power, we feel grotesque. And of this quality there are ourselves in the grasp of a painter who three remarkable instances in the Scuola. was essentially a poet, one for whom his No one but Tintoretto could have evoked art was the mediuin for expressing before the fiend in his “Temptation of Christ.” all things thought and passion. Each It is an indescribable hermaphroditic picture is executed in the manner suited genius, the genius of carnal fascination, to its tone of feeling, the key of its con with outspread, downy, rose.plumed wings, ception.

and flaming bracelets on the full, plump Elsewhere than in the Madonna dell' arms, who kneels and lifts aloft great Orto there are more distinguished single stones, smiling entreatingly to the sad, examples of Tintoretto's realizing faculty. grey Christ seated beneath a rugged pent. “ The Last Supper," in San Giorgin, for house of the desert. No one again but instance, and “The Adoration of the Shepo Tintoretto could have dashed the hot herds” in the Scuola di San Rocco illus- lights of that fiery sunset in such quivertrate his unique power of presenting ing Aakes upon the golden flesh of Eve, sacred history in a novel, romantic frame- half-hidden among laurels, as she stretches work of familiar things. The most com- forth the fruit of the fall to shrinking monplace circumstances of ordinary life Adam. No one but Tintoretto, till we have been employed to portray in the one come to Blake, could have imagined yoncase a lyric of mysterious splendor; in der Jonah, summoned by the beck of God the other, an idyll of infinite sweetness. from the whale's belly. The monstrous Divinity shines through the rafters of fish rolls over in the ocean, blowing porthat upper chamber, where round the low, tentous vapor from his trump-shaped nos. large table the apostles are assembled in tril. The prophet's beard descends upon a group translated from the social cus- his naked breast in hoary ringlets to the toms of the painter's days. Divinity is girdle. He has forgotten the past peril shed upon the straw-spread manger, where of the deep, although the whale's jaws Christ lies sleeping in the loft, with shep-yawn around him. Between him and the herds crowding through the room be- outstretched finger of Jehovah calling neath.

him again to life there runs a spark of A studied contrast between the sim. unseen spiritual electricity. plicity and repose of the central figure To comprehend Tintoretto's touch upon and the tumult of passions in the multi- the pastoral idyll we must turn our steps tude around may be observed in “ The to San Giorgio again, and pace those Miracle of St. Agnes." It is this which meadows by the running river in company gives dramatic vigor to the composi- with his manna.gatherers. Or we may tion. But the same effect is carried to seek the Accademia, and notice how he its highest fulfilment, with even a loftier here has varied“The Temptation of Adam beauty, in the episode of “ Christ before by Eve," choosing a less tragic motive of the Judgment seat of Pilate," at San Roc- seduction than the one so powerfully ren

Of all Tintoretto's religious pictures dered at San Rocco. Or in the Ducal that is the most profoundly felt, the most Palace we may take our station, hour by majestic. No other artist succeeded as lour, before " The Marriage of Bacchus be bas here succeeded in presenting to and Ariadne.” It is well to leave the us God incarnate. For this Christ is not very highest achievements of art, un.

[ocr errors]

co.

« VorigeDoorgaan »